The Salam Model of Conflict Resolution

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Man is essentially a social being who necessarily must interact and compete with other members of his social setting to achieve anything. The Holy Qur’an alludes to this innate quality of man when it states that “And everyone has a goal which dominates him; vie, then with one another in good works” Al Baqarah 2: 148.

In the course of this struggle and interactions to further his cause, Man tends to, wittingly or otherwise, infringe or trample on the rights, benefits and interests of other members of his community. Given this state of affairs, it is normal to have conflicts in human settings such as the workplace.

Wall and Callister (1995) defined conflict as “a process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party”. Conflicts could arise in the workplace owing to difference in character, gender, culture, values, beliefs, language etc but Farmer and Roth (1998) argued that this diversity could be a source of strength and potentially enrich any discussion if properly managed.

Conflicts in workplace usually results in breakdown of communication and an inability to cooperate and collaborate effectively towards the attainment of set or assigned goals. This, according to Ahmad (2006), results in “a dysfunctional competition that erupts between individuals or groups vying for scarce resources or attention”.

Conflict is usually viewed as destructive and negative; consequently, many managers seek to suppress it in the workplace without seeking to benefit from its positive sides (Farmer and Roth, 1998; Jabnoun, 1994). Even so, Ahmad (2006) having posited that “conflicts are not in themselves evil or even good for that matter as this value definition would depend on the human participants”, further argues the need for a healthy tension within a group, caused by conflict, as desirable for success. A conflict that is properly managed may become the catalyst for creativity and positive change (Jabnoun, 1994; Ahmad, 2006; Ali, 1996).

Conflicts can be productively and positively managed if the organization encourages open, honest and constructive communication whilst ingraining in employees, having diverse labeling, the fact that their goals are mutual rather than independent and jointly achieved results would serve to further the organizational goals and objectives (Harolds and Wood, 2006; Farmer and Roth, 1998).

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Conflict resolution describes a situation where two or more parties work together to seek a peaceful outcome to a misunderstanding or disagreement between them. The conflict resolution strategies put in place by any organization will have a significant influence on workgroups outcome; affect the productivity of the workforce and the organization’s ability to cope with market competition (Aritzeta et al, 2005; Song et al, 2006). The goal of conflict resolution is to improve upon the previously frosty interrelationship and communications between aggrieved parties so that they can collaborate more effectively.

The SALAM model to conflict resolution is a proactive and constructive approach which derives its principles from the Islamic faith (Ahmad, 2006). In the Holy Qur’an, Allah commands thus “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority over you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day” (Al-Nisa 4:59). The Islamic concept of conflict resolution usually seeks to establish and maintain a peaceful, healthy and harmonious relationship with God and with all humanity (Abdalla, 2001; Al-Buraey, 2001). The above Qur’anic verse affirms that and also sanctifies the important role of leadership in the effective management of conflicts (Randeree and Chaudhry, 2007). Other important factors espoused by Islam and imbued in the model include Justice (Randeree, 2008), equity, freedom and affirmative, critical and goal oriented thinking (Abdalla, 2001; Al-Buraey, 2001; Yousef, 2000).

This model, as described by Ahmad (2006), is systematic and starts with STATING (S) the conflicting views which involve clearly defining the source, nature and magnitude of the conflict to all parties represented in the disagreement. Thereafter every party should AGREE (A), without being prejudicial or biased, that a discord exists. This is followed by the LISTEN and LEARN (L) process where the parties listen to each other’s point of view to learn about the disagreement. This step, though the most challenging, would be very effective if parties sincerely show empathy for each other’s position and try to reason from the other’s position. Having done this, each side should then be given an opportunity to suggest a solution to resolving the conflict. This would engender an atmosphere for ADVISING (A) one another and the seeking of common ground through varying agreements and compromises for the resolution of the conflict. Also a party may propose to assist the other(s) in a proactive manner to facilitate the intervention and foster a collaborative environment. Consequently, it is expected that by MINIMIZING (M) aspects of possible conflicts through proactive debates, destructive conflict sources could thus be eliminated.

As proposed by the SALAM model, an effective conflict resolution effort must involve all parties to a conflict, for example, the participation of organization members in developing a policy manual or job description for their various functions in the workplace can help in motivating the team, mitigating destructive conflicts and promoting understanding of the common objectives (Al-Buraey 2001). This approach fosters collaboration as it allows all participants to be involved in the organizational processes thus giving a sense of purpose, dignity and ownership of organizational goals and objective. This way conflict is managed, and monitored by all stakeholders (Ali, 1996; Al-Buraey 2001).

It is important that the conflicting parties trust each other and demonstrate the capability and willingness to discuss the source of the conflict. The skill and role of the Manager in ensuring an amicable conflict resolution strategy and in supporting systems that would check the deterioration of conflicts to unhealthy proportions in the workplace is paramount to the success and workability of the model (Harolds and Woods, 2006; Jabnoun, 1994; Ali, 1996). The Manager should strive for a win-win situation to avoid situations of sub-optimality in the organizational results (Ahmad, 2006).

To demonstrate the practicality of the SALAM model, a conflict situation in a typical branch of a Nigerian commercial bank would be x-rayed. Basically, such branches have two units, the marketing and operations unit. As a result of the interdependence of their tasks, conflicts are inevitable and somewhat encouraged, as each unit strives to attain the goals set out for them and for which they are evaluated. The pursuit of efficiency and optimality requires that the functional and productive aspect of conflict is stimulated from time to time whilst reducing and maintaining the dysfunctional aspect at acceptable levels. A common area of conflict occurs with respect to the accordance of services to the customer. The Marketer, in line with his job schedule, is likely to promise and accede to the peculiar requests of the customer. The Operator, on the other hand, mainly responsible for control and treatment of such requests, may frustrate or disallow it for reasons ranging from personal grudge to an (mis)application of regulatory and policy guides leading to an aggravation of conflict situation. The bottom-line here is the likely loss of income, repeat business and referrals caused by customer’s dissatisfaction. To address this situation in a constructive manner, the SALAM model can be employed wherein the manager calls warring parties and state what he has observed or the complaint received in details.

The parties involved would need to agree that the observation is true or the complaint correct. Thereafter each party listens and learns about the issues. Addressing the source of personal grudges, if any, is also vital and activated at this stage. The proper application of the regulation or policy is reviewed to know whether or not such a request can be handled; and how to relate with the customer whatever the outcome. The views of all parties should be respected and corrections be given in a polite and dignifying manner, so that both the marketer and operator are able to still focus on their core competence of bringing business and ensuring control in line with acceptable standards respectively in such a way that is ultimately beneficial to the bank. If properly handled, this may engender an atmosphere where suggestions could be given on modification of the request to make it amenable to the Bank’s risk acceptance criteria and thus actionable. Hopefully, this way, conflict situations are minimized.

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